older adults and teenagers talking

A Wisconsin-based senior living and care provider is organizing a teen board to teach leadership and career skills while fostering relationships with older adults.

Milwaukee-based Ovation Communities, a Jewish faith-based senior living and care provider, is launching Teen Ovation through the Jewish Home and Care Center Foundation, where the idea for the teen board originated. Ovation Communities’ intergenerational programming includes children, youth and young adults ranging in age from infants through college age. 

Teen Ovation, the first multi-faith teen board of its kind, according to Julie Shlensky, holder of the Posner chair for intergenerational programming at Ovation Communities. The board will include up to 20 teens ranging in age from 13 to 19; they will participate in discussions and activities, organize programs, fundraise and take on leadership roles. 

Shlensky said the teens will have the opportunity to share their ideas to “improve the lives of our senior residents” while learning new skills. The teens, she added, will engage with residents on the Ovation Communities’ Resident Advisory Committee to plan two programs that bring the generations together.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to get to know our residents and gain real-world experiences while bettering our community,” Shlensky said. “There is so much we can learn about life by just being around them.”

Teen Ovation has two goals, she said: to make teens comfortable in leadership positions and in continuing to participate on boards that are meaningful to them throughout their lives.

“Hopefully, those involved in Teen Ovation will participate on the boards that support Ovation Communities when they are adults,” Shlensky said. “The overall goal is to bring generations together through positive interactions by providing a means through which teens and seniors can develop meaningful relationships.”

The Teen Ovation board will learn about the day-to-day operations of senior living communities and will participate in seminars about sensitivity training, ageism, career building and fundraising. Speakers also will provide information about career and job opportunities working with older adults.

“One of our objectives is to help guide these teens into leadership roles while bettering themselves and their community,” Shlensky said. “Whether they are interested in a career within healthcare, senior living communities, or business and finance, this board will help give them the guidance and direction they need to be successful.”

The first Teen Ovation board meeting will take place in April. Application for admission into the program is open until April 5. Shlensky said the first several meetings will be via Zoom, with in-person gatherings beginning “as soon as it is safe for both the teens and Ovation residents.”